WASHINGTON, April 21 (UPI) -- Iraq's Kurdish region leader said talks in Baghdad on key controversial issues, including the oil law, showed "positive … cooperation and progress."
Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, said in a statement the central and regional governments met in Baghdad "to discuss the mechanism of relations between our two bodies as partners in the governance of Iraq, the advancement of our political process and other various issues regarding the future of Iraq."
His statement confirmed what United Press International reported first last week -- that the sides were nearing agreement on the draft oil law. It's been stuck as both sides disagree on how much control local governments should have in signing oil deals and to what extent foreign companies should be allowed to invest.
Barzani's statement said a February 2007 version of the law will be moved forward through the political process -- approved by the Council of Ministers and then Parliament -- and will lead to a settlement of key obstacles.
The February version was derailed in part by the Oil Ministry in Baghdad announcing four lists categorizing control over the discovered oil and gas fields and the exploration blocks, which the Kurds opposed.
Over the past year the KRG accelerated its own oil sector, passing a regional oil law and signing dozens of deals with foreign companies, which the Oil Ministry in Baghdad called illegal.
Now, according to Barzani and Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, who UPI to spoke to last week, a federal oil and gas council will decide those and other matters.
Barzani said when the Council of Ministers OK's the oil law, three related laws -- revenue sharing, re-establishing the Iraqi National Oil Co. and restructuring the Oil Ministry -- would be bundled with it and sent to Parliament.
"Our meetings in Baghdad were marked by a positive feeling of cooperation and progress," he said.
Iraq's Oil Ministry still says the deals are not legitimate and there's no consensus on the oil law.
Ben Lando, UPI Energy Editor